It was the first project assigned to our Voice and Movement class. We were to pick a series of vocal warm ups and stretches to share with the class. After I presented my selection, my instructor asked me why I chose the ones I did. She thought it was odd that my series went through the smallest and quietest gestures I could chose from when there was such a wide array of movements to play with. We both knew I was just trying to stay in my safe space.
I find myself going back to this experience quite often, reminding myself of my first semester of Theatre Arts in college. I was a year or more older than everyone else in my classes because I had originally started out as an English major. I decided to switch my major after I learned the English classes offered were solely focused on male writers (with the exception of Jane Austen). But I went into college with the idea of becoming a journalist and thought that theatre was just a hobby I grew up with. After a brief moment of contemplating a degree in criminology (from my obsession with Agatha Christie growing up), I made the decision to give Theatre a shot.
As I walked through the halls of the Performing Arts building those first couple of months, I remember my heart racing. And it wasn't just from the excitement. It was mostly out of fear and feeling like a total fraud. Everyday I swore someone was going to come up to me and tell me I didn't belong there, that I had made a mistake thinking I could be a Theatre major, that I should just go back to the English department. I had visions of this big red flashing sign over my head that read "phony". So I kept quiet and tried to remain unseen (which was quite strange at the time as I was aiming for a BFA in Acting).
My Voice and Movement instructor saw this though. She saw what I was trying to do and totally called me out on it, which is what I needed. Then, she taught me how to own the place I’m in and speak louder than I ever had before. She taught me not only where my voice and body could live, but how I could use it to scream, laugh, cry, and feel. She helped me get out of my shell and made me aware that I am enough simply by being me. Since then, I have been less afraid to take ownership of what I put out into the world.
I know now that I was very wrong with the notion that theatre was just a hobby. The love of the art form is something I have never been able to breakaway from, whether it be through acting, playwriting, or directing. It's a part of who I am. I've always belonged there because it welcomes everyone into it. It's where we can explore our questions, escape from reality, and find pieces of ourselves we didn't even know we were missing. Those that are fortunate enough to be a part of that world know how scary and uplifting it can be. But it’s a world we wouldn't trade for anything, and a space that belongs to each of us.
Copyright © 2018 Christine Drew Benjamin | All Rights Reserved